The San Diego State women’s rugby team narrowly defeated Clairemont 19-14 in their first game at home this season.
The Aztecs are still working their way to becoming an official club at SDSU. But as they wait for approval from the school, they’re continuing to dominate out on the field, with or without approval.
As a recently formed recreational team at SDSU, it’s been tough to maneuver through all the challenges of the pandemic, but head coach Tony Roulhac thinks it was all worth it in the end.
“It felt fantastic (to be back playing), we were all really discouraged with the pandemic not being able to see people.” Roulhac said. “These types of activities are what keep a lot of players motivated to be successful in the classroom and losing that was a big mental burn for everybody. Having it back now you just see the spark, you see them ready to go again, they’re appreciative of it, and they’re succeeding more outside of rugby as well. So just having this back now I can’t even describe how much it means to the girls, myself, and everyone involved.
The Aztecs are currently undefeated, winning their previous two games against the University of Las Vegas and UC Irvine. In Vegas, the Aztecs pulled off an impressive 42-0 shutout to open up their season.
Clairemont College, which is widely recognized as one of the best teams in the Pacific Desert Rugby Conference, had never lost to the Aztecs.
This win was huge for the Aztecs as Clairemont is normally the team to make regionals — which now stacks the odds in the favor of the Aztecs with one game left to go on their schedule.
“This team is really good, it’s just our second year playing but especially after this I think we’re going to be unstoppable for sure.” senior flyhalf and captain Angel Sanchez-Fisak said.
Clairemont was the first to score. An early breakaway down the left-wing combined with some fantastic close passing led to the try. The two-point conversion was also converted by the Foxes, giving them a 7-0 lead.
Then after a series of penalties against the Foxes, freshman Alexa Carmosino broke through a gap in the backline. Breaking through multiple tackles, Carmosino finally was brought down, but not before she had passed the try line and placed the ball down. The Aztecs had the chance to tie the game after the try but missed their conversion.
For much of the first half, the game was played near the 50-yard line, with neither team really able to keep possession in the opposition’s 22.
The Aztecs remained aggressive and the only way the Foxes were able to stop them, was illegally. Two yellow cards — which in rugby send the player who committed the foul into the “sin bin” for 10 minutes — and a ton of penalties later, and junior Anneliese Widmann looked like she had broken past the Foxes backline and scored a try.
To the surprise of fans and some players, the sir — rugby lingo for the head referee — never blew the whistle for a try, so the game played on.
About 20 more seconds of rugby were played until the sir jogged back to the spot where it looked the try had been scored and blew the whistle for a try. Everyone looked a little confused but nevertheless, the Aztecs went up 12-7 at halftime after junior Natalie Figueroa’s conversion.
For much of the second half, it looked as if no one would score. Both teams were executing their tackles but penalties were keeping either side from getting a hold on possession.
After a series of knock-ons by the Foxes in their own 22, senior Alyssa Umemoto scored a try after a series of attempts to break the Foxes’ backline. Figueroa again converted the kick, and the Aztecs took a 12 point lead.
Towards the end of the match, the Foxes’ Number 8 bulldozed her way from outside the 22 in for a try, breaking multiple tackles in the process. After a successful conversion, the score was 19-14.
Following the try, murmurs echoed around the match that there were five minutes remaining, which was later confirmed when Aztec players asked the sir how much time was left — to which she responded, “four.”
“Everyone was telling themselves to keep it cool,” Sanchez-Fisak said. “Keep the ball in our hands and just keep playing our game the way we were the whole time.”
Surely enough, the Aztecs would hold on to their lead until the final whistle.
“We came up against a team who hasn’t lost in a very long time, they’ve put some blows to us early in the preseason and the girls were really thinking that they weren’t sure they can do this,” Roulhac said . “But we just kept talking about it every week like they’re all here, they deserve to be here, they’re ready, this is their place and their time, and they came out and showed that they can believe in themselves.”
The Aztecs will play the final match on their schedule at the ENS field at SDSU on Saturday, Mar. 12. Vs. CSU Long Beach.